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Heard the one about the gay footballer coming out at the World Cup?

Possibly not.

Even in 2018, the bravery required to be the first man to be openly gay in this global arena, supersedes the bravery required to face down a goalkeeper in a penalty shoot out, not to mention on top of it. We haven’t yet been treated to knowing the true identity of this superman. I’m hopeful that the amazing work being done by Stonewall, Gay Footballers Supporters Network and Pride in Football will mean we soon do, at least here in the UK. I for one can’t wait until the WAGs become WAGAHABs.

People often tell me ‘but that’s just male football – everyone else is pretty open in workplaces these days aren’t they? We’ve got the rainbow flag in our reception, our CFO is a lesbian!’

We are often in a bubble about this topic, if we’re fortunate enough to live in a society where the rainbow flag is waved annually through our streets, usually accompanied by vibrant partying and smiling police officers, we can often be lulled into a false sense that equality has been achieved, certainly in the workplace.

When commenting on a 2018 UK workplace study, Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive, Stonewall, said: “The fact that more than a third (35%) of LGBT employees have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination shows that change is still very much needed”.

In the US, the figure rises to 50% of people who identify as LGBT who aren’t currently open to their colleagues at work, a study by Human Rights Campaign in June 2018. Why?:

38% hid their sexuality because of the possibility of being stereotyped

36% didn’t want to make people feel uncomfortable

31% worried about losing connections or relationships with co-workers

“Creating a workplace that accepts everyone isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes good business sense. When staff feel comfortable and happy, they will perform much better than if they’re having to hide who they are” says Hunt.

So let’s look at those reasons for remaining hidden. Stereotyping, other people’s feelings, losing relationships; arguably the context into which that person is coming out, limits their ability to do so. Essentially, they are not driven by some deep need to remain private about their lives but the surrounding culture prohibits them.

We all contribute to workplace cultures, so how can we help lift the authenticity tax for people who identify as LGBT?

According to a study by TUC in conjunction with Stonewall 62% of respondents have heard homophobic or transphobic remarks or jokes directed to others at work, while 28% have had such comments directed at them.

So maybe, during this Pride month, that’s a good place to start:

1.     Call it out. Challenge or at the very least stop the complicit laugh-along if you hear homophobic or transphobic remarks in your workplace. We all have a responsibility to create an inclusive culture at work.

2.     Label me I dare you. Watch for use of stereotyping associated with LGBT people, often a result of unconscious bias, but controllable if you’re attuned to it.

3.     I’m with you. Create spaces where you talk freely about LGBT people you know and respect. Don’t make the fact that they are LGBT the focus, “Hey I know a gay person!” but simply showing that you have gay friends and/or family members that you love for a variety of reasons will demonstrate that being open with you is a safe space, the need to hide is lessened – particularly relevant if you are a leader within a organisation.

4.     Fly the flag. While the focus is and always will be to make LGBT people visible, our rights heard and respected, this is a flag for everyone to gather around – on pride week and everyday in the workplace. Because unlike the World Cup, there are only winners when it comes to better workplace inclusion.


Signs of the Times

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What I loved most about the Women’s March in London wasn’t the political statement or striding out, exhilarating though that was. It wasn’t even the excellent punning (“We shall Overcomb”) it was the feeling of the collective. And in particular the beautiful citizen thumbprint of art work and emotion. Seared into my memory the multi-coloured signs, gleaming in the bright blue January sky.  I’ve walked along Piccadilly many, many times but never felt so truly connected to, and proud of,  my hometown. I don’t know whether you’ve been to London before, but it can sometimes be, well, a bit cloudy. Not on on January 21st. The sky was deepest blue, reminding the marchers of its soaring unlimitedness. ‘Stronger Together’ as we walked past the war memorial at Hyde Park Corner, ‘Women’s Rights are Human Rights’ past the Queen Elizabeth Gates – ‘Love and a nice cup of tea’ as we walked past the Ritz. A kaleidoscope of hand crafted placards, held by all walks of life. I have a feeling that this was a ‘walk of life’ for so many of us, for a kaleidoscope of reasons. A blue sky day lit up with homegrown dgrabseclarations of independence.

Under the worthy auspice of a Women’s March, I felt encouraged that people hadn’t taken this too literally. There’s noting like standing shoulder to shoulder with a group of your own gender sometimes, particularly if that gender is denied equal pay, faces unfair societal barriers or abuse, but you don’t have to be a woman to be deeply offended by misogyny. We all have a role in shifting the social narrative away from limiting gender stereotypes for women and men.

Men protesting for equal rights for women. Women protesting for LGBTQ rights. Mothers and daughters protesting intersectional discrimination against women of colour. Four generations, side by side with Dad pushing the buggy. All races, all faces, we moved along together. We held our expressions of hope, of anger, of defiance and most often than not, love. People with infinitely different experiences of the world, the margins of the marginalised, your next door neighbour, the people who care about the planet and the people that live here.















I hope people felt supported and listened to. I hope the beautiful home-made placards made it home intact. Most of all I hope some of them got swapped along the way.

And heres to more home-made signs of togetherness, may the citizens’ art be as present in our cities as street signs, guiding us on our way.


Biases behind the booth

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“Oh it’s got nothing to do with the fact that she’s a woman. I just don’t warm to her”. Today, a divided nation will take their unconscious biases to the polls.

When I get asked to explain what unconscious gender bias is I often show two pictures and ask people to say what they see. The first reaction is usually ‘a fishmonger’ and the second, ‘a woman holding a fish’. The point is, these people are both fishmongers – the first is male, the second is female – but our own unconscious bias, supported by centuries of ‘accepted’ social norms lead us to view the woman holding the fish as just that. Viewing this person as, first and foremost, a woman, and what’s that woman doing? She’s holding a fish. Both of the fishmongers are in identical work wear, and yes, with the fishmonger hats and everything. It doesn’t surprise me one bit, as unconscious bias is present in everyone. At a time when people seem to delight in dividing and putting up walls, unconscious bias is actually one of the many human characteristics that unites us all.

At a time when people seem to delight in dividing and putting up walls, unconscious bias is actually one of the many human characteristics that unites us all.

Unconscious bias is born of our evolutionary need to opt for safety. Our unconscious minds, over millennia, have been hard-wired to go for a rough average, a quick calculation based on what looks like the best route for survival. But this average-based unconscious thinking, this rough estimation, this ‘gut-feel’ can limit us from fully understanding the big picture in a modern day setting. In 2016, the risks might be a missed opportunity, a short-sighted decision or worse, limiting others around us. This is noticeable especially in the workplace –  where biases in hiring processes can lead to skewed monocultures that do not best reflect the customer bases they are there to serve.

Hillary Clinton talked about this phenomenon in January this year: “So much of the perception [about leadership] is rooted in very ancient feelings we have about the roles of men and women. I’ve had so many interesting and sometimes surprising experiences where people will say to me, ‘I never thought I’d support a woman for president but I’m at least considering it with you’. That’s a big step forward”. “Because I don’t know how we’re going to open the door for more girls and boys to live the lives they choose until we get rid of a lot of these stereotypes, these caricatures and break through together.”

We all possess unconscious biases, it’s part of who we are as humans. But maybe better to be aware, better to try and jolt ourselves past hard-wired stereotypes and think of the bigger picture. Maybe if you notice yourself referring to unknown doctors as he, or asking women if they have children but rarely men, then this could be due to unconscious gender bias. Try and make your unconscious biases conscious ones, noticing them will help to reduce them over time. Because sometimes, it’s not just a better bit of tuna you’re missing out on, but a better career opportunity, team member or even a President.

Find out more about overcoming unconscious biases here.


Motley Crews

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They had great hair. They rocked the world, they got banned from Edmonton, Canada for hurling a television from a sixth-floor hotel window. But despite their hijinks, I’m not here to talk about the famous 80s Metal Band, Mötley Crüe. I’m talking about Diversity.

The term ‘motley crew’ is used to describe ‘a roughly organized assembly of characters of various backgrounds, appearance, and character’. And if you think back to almost every film about teams from The Great Escape to The Goonies, it’s often the motley-ness of a crew that helps it prevail.

The term ‘motley crew’ is used to describe ‘a roughly organized assembly of characters of various backgrounds, appearance, and character’.

The diverse set of skills, experiences, views of the world, knowledge, and connections help the motley crews out of scrapes, defeat their often uniform(ed) and unimaginative opponents and create ingenious solutions to complex challenges. (Usually involving zip-wires, in the case of The Goonies) So let me ask you a question. How motley is your crew?

How truly different are the people that you work with?

If your answer is ‘we’re basically a combination of The Goonies and The Great Escape’ then chances are you’re on the right track, but if you feel surrounded by people either from a similar background or who may be acting a certain way at work, because that’s what’s expected of them, then guess what? You might have an un-motley crew. A team that’s more uniform than it needs to be. A team that might be constrained by outdated stereotypes and notions of what’s ‘normal’. A team that once back at home, or out discovering new places, attending a grandchild’s play, or volunteering at a community shelter feel they can be themselves, but as soon as you put them in a workplace context, the motley-ness disappears. The uniformity creeps in, authenticity evaporates and the ability to innovate sails off into the sunset.

So next time you’re holding a meeting – take some time to think about your favourite motley crew. And if it is indeed the 80s Metal Band from Southern California, then go ahead and rock the boat.